Joe DiMaggio

The Selling of Joe DiMaggio

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Bill Hicks once did a bit about ad and marketing guys that, while a bit on the harsh side, did tell some essential truths. the biggest one: ad and marketing guys can basically talk themselves into selling anything regardless of the facts on the ground. I’m reminded of this as I read about an ad agency trying to sell Joe DiMaggio image and legacy for various licensing agreements.

Which is fine as far as it goes. DiMaggio is an icon and as long as he’s not dancing with vacuum cleaners and there’s a bit of dignity involved, who’s to begrudge his family from making a few bucks?  I do have to question the pitch, though:

But Wallrich Landi founder Lila Wallrich says there’s a “more altruistic” ambition as well: to promote the values DiMaggio personified by being a humble celebrity, team player and “straight-up citizen” who enlisted in the military during World War II and later founded a children’s hospital. The campaign also has a romantic angle, highlighting the ballplayer’s lifelong love for Marilyn Monroe.

“If all we do is sell some fast food,” Wallrich says of the campaign, “it will be a hollow victory.”

And what says “humble” more than a guy who, after being voted as such by the Sporting News,  insisted on being introduced as baseball’s “Greatest Living Player” at personal appearances?  And what says romance more than a marriage that ended in large part due to the man’s jealousy and the woman’s mental frailty, all of which led to a divorce on the stated grounds of “mental cruelty?” And while service to one’s country in wartime is a clear positive, DiMaggio’s service record is a bit more complicated than your average marketing campaign can truly capture, don’t you think?

But hey, as long as he’s not selling fast food, because that would stain the legacy.

Look, I don’t mean to slam Joe DiMaggio here.  I’m merely pointing out the silliness of a complicated person’s legacy being used to sell broad concepts like humility and nobility and all of that and then to have those traits rub off on to various products. When DiMaggio served as a spokesman for a product like Mr. Coffee during his lifetime he was doing it as a man, making a more or less honest buck and letting his word and whatever good will he had with people to do the work to sell a product he said was a good one.  When his larger-than-life image is being sold years after his death, however, and the idea is to use him as some sort of ideal of various virtues, that’s something different altogether.

This isn’t about selling out. Lots of people sell out. Heck, if the people from Maker’s Mark asked me to do testimonials for their product tomorrow I would.  This is about simple effectiveness.  About people themselves — or their heirs  — tacking products onto the person’s image in some incidental, associative manner. That seems pointless to me because people are flawed beings, and it’s not too hard to see the flaws, even on someone as venerated as Joe DiMaggio.

But I’m not marketing expert. And maybe this is too fine a line to draw.  It just seems to me that doing the sort of thing mentioned in this article is doubly insulting. Insulting to the actual complex humanity of DiMaggio — a man who would likely never hold himself up as some sort of ideal beyond his baseball pursuits — and insulting to consumers who are presumed to ignore everything they know about humanity and fall for such a pitch.

(via BTF)

Royals pay tribute to late Yordano Ventura during spring training opener

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - AUGUST 12: Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers a pitch against the Minnesota Twins during the first inning of the game on August 12, 2016 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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The Royals honored former pitcher Yordano Ventura prior to their first Cactus League game against the Rangers on Saturday. Ventura was killed in a car accident in his native Dominican Republic in late January.

Rangers’ third baseman Adrian Beltre and center fielder Carlos Gomez paid their respects to the pitcher with a floral arrangement that was laid on the mound. Both teams stood along the foul lines during a pregame video tribute that highlighted Ventura’s tenure with Kansas City. Following the game, Gomez spoke to the media about his relationship with Ventura, describing their frequent conversations during the season and commending the pitcher for having “the same passion that I had early in my career” (via WFAA.com’s Levi Weaver).

A plaque dedicated to the 25-year-old was also presented to club manager Ned Yost as a more permanent commemoration of Ventura’s contributions to the sport. Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star reports that the plaque will be mounted in the club’s spring training facilities alongside tributes to members of the Royals’ 2014 and 2015 playoff teams.

The full text of the plaque is below, via MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan:

A brother and a teammate, Yordano Ventura, passed away on the morning of January 22 in his native Dominican Republic, at the age of 25. He signed with the Royals as a 17-year-old, eventually making the big league team in 2013 as a 22-year-old. On most days, he could be found laughing and joking with his baseball family in the clubhouse. However, on days when he pitched, that smile was replaced by a quiet confidence and an intense fire, which he brought to the mound for every start. He had many highlights in his abbreviated career, not the least of which was throwing eight shutout innings in Game #6 of the 2014 World Series to force a Game #7 vs. San Francisco.

Gerrit Cole named Pirates’ Opening Day starter

BRADENTON, FL - FEBRUARY 19: Gerrit Cole #45 of the Pittsburgh Pirates poses for a photograph during MLB spring training photo day on February 19, 2017 at Pirate City in Bradenton, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
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Right-hander Gerrit Cole is set to take the mound for the Pirates on Opening Day, according to a team announcement on Saturday. It’s a spot that was most recently occupied by former Pirate Francisco Liriano, who made three consecutive Opening Day starts for the club before getting dealt to the Blue Jays last August.

The 26-year-old produced career-worst numbers during his fourth run with the Pirates in 2016, due in large part to bouts of inflammation in his right elbow. He finished the year with a 3.88 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 over 116 innings before getting shut down in September to avoid further injury to his elbow. When healthy, however, Cole has been lights-out for the Pirates. Prior to his injury-laden campaign last year, he touted a career 3.07 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9 and cumulative 10.2 fWAR from 2013 through 2015.

Cole will go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox during Boston’s home opener on Monday, April 3. Right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to make the second start of the year, while fellow righty Ivan Nova will cover the Pirates’ home opener against the Braves on April 7. The Pirates’ third and fifth starters have yet to be announced.